Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back to School Shopping for AP Psych

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this message.

Greetings, AP Psych Students and Parents!

I hope this message finds you enjoying a pleasant Wisconsin summer. However, according to virtually every retail establishment I’ve visited during the past two weeks, it’s time for back-to-school shopping. Whether that thought excites you or makes you cringe, I figured I’d give you the heads up about what you’ll need for AP Psych. That way, we can streamline your shopping trip (whenever it happens).


  • Be sure to pick up a 3-ring binder for use throughout the year in AP Psych. You’ll need this to keep your notes and handouts organized by topic area. Look for one 1.5 to 2.5 inches in width (3 in is usually too unwieldy to carry in a backpack daily). Note: I do have a number of free binders generously donated by the parent of a former student (her workplace was discarding them). I’ll have them available at textbook pick-up on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to save some cash, you are welcome to take one at no cost!
  • You’ll also want paper for note-taking (loose-leaf or notebook, your choice). Student preference is the key here: some folks like to use loose-leaf paper so they can insert notes into the binder by topic area, others like keeping their notes all in one notebook (post-it tabs to mark chapters/units can be helpful if going that route). If you like notebooks, be aware that many students fill up their notebooks by spring in AP Psych, so having more than one on hand will help. Also, some students prefer to keep their book notes and class notes separate (not a bad idea), so you’ll want to think about your “system” when shopping.
  • Pens and pencils are going to be necessary. Perhaps this is obvious, but I thought I’d be thorough.

Some students like to purchase these items to assist with their studying and test preparation throughout the year (and prior to the AP Psych Exam). However, they are not required. (Tip: Parents sometimes purchase these as very practical gifts at birthdays and holidays, so you may want to hang on to this for future reference).

  • (New this year) Strive for a 5 Study Guide (cost $30; accompanies the new textbook). This workbook helps students process what they read in the text and practice skills in preparation for unit tests and the AP Psych Exam. I’m very excited about this, because I think it’s a great resource for students! The district provides each student with a copy; HOWEVER (and this is a big drawback, I think), because the district’s copies will be reused from year-to-year, students cannot write in them. That is a bummer, because they are set up like workbooks and would be much easier to use if students could write in them. Because I think that students might be interested in purchasing their own copies (to be able to write in them), I’m happy to organize an order for those who wish to do so. Students will be getting the copies provided by the district at textbook pick-up in mid-August, so you are free to take a look at the item and decide if you’d like to buy your own instead. If you know you would like to order your own, payments will be accepted at that time (then I can hopefully get the order submitted in time for them to arrive for the start of the school year). Depending on interest, I may place a second order in September (if students would like to wait and see how the first unit goes before buying). Unfortunately, the publisher does not have a direct retail website, so all ordering will have to be organized through the school.

  • Additional test-prep book(s). There are a lot of these on the market (and you can find them online or at large book stores in the test-prep section), and are not many differences from one brand to another. Cost is usually $17-20. Some students like using them (especially the practice tests usually found in them) as the AP Exam approaches in the spring, but this is completely a matter of personal preference. If purchasing one of these, be sure to look for the 2014-2015 version, since our curriculum changes slightly this year (and 2013-2014 versions will not be up to date). I’ve got examples of these for viewing (or classroom use), so feel free to take a look at them when you come in for textbook pick-up if you want to see what they are like.

Barron's is just one of the test-prep books available. Princeton Review and 5 Steps to a 5 are also popular.
  • Flash card sets. Like the test-prep books, it’s easy to find these online or at large book stores, and some students appreciate not having to print/make 1000+ flashcards on their own. (Note, however, that online flashcards are linked up to the class website for free;  this would be for folks who like having physical versions on hand for study.) However, if you wait until March or April to buy them, you may have trouble, since they tend to be in high demand as the AP Exam approaches (when, suddenly, 260,000 AP Psych students decide to simultaneously purchase them). Like the test-prep books, I’ve got sample sets for classroom use, so you can peruse them before deciding if it’s worth buying your own.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email ( or ask when you come in to pick-up your textbook in August. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and happy shopping!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer in AP Psych Land

This summer I've been pretty busy getting ready and renewed for what I hope will be a banner year for AP Psych in 2014-15. Just thought I'd give you a brief summary of all that has been happening to prepare for your arrival in rm 136.

AP Exam Reading

In early June, I joined 400+ AP Psychology teachers and Psych Professors from across the country at the AP Exam Reading in Kansas City, MO. This is my third year of participating in the Reading, and it was great to connect with my colleagues from across the country, see old friends, make new ones, and (of course), score endless stacks of FRQs from the 2014 exam.

I was assigned to Question 1, which was a research methods question, and was happy to be scoring lots and lots of bar graphs much of the week. In all, over a quarter million exams were read by the crew that week. 

With the recently retired (from teaching) Charlie Blair-Broeker at the AP Reading. 

Steve Jones and I take a serious selfie during lunch at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Brad Wray, Mike Ray, and I can't figure out why there are no cars in downtown Kansas City on Sunday afternoon. Or at least cheering crowds to celebrate the end of the AP Psych Reading.

Then, after the end of the school year, I did attempt to become a hermit for about 2 weeks. I got caught up on sleep and was able to clean my house for once. How nice, right?

Chi-Hi AP Psych Exam Results

In early July, scores for our AP Psych students at Chi-Hi became available, and we had a lot to celebrate! The 2014 crop of AP Psych students was our largest group of test takers yet: 95 students took the AP Psych Exam! And, they did quite well. 

As a group, we can boast a 86% percent pass rate (which was substantially higher than the national pass rate of 65%), and 33 of our 95 test takers earned 5's (the highest possible score). This is impressive, given how much instructional time we lost due to snow days over the 2014-15 school year. 

AP Annual Conference

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the AP Annual Conference in Philadelphia, PA. It was an invigorating conference, as I picked up a lot of great ideas for use in my own classroom and for growing and supporting AP programs in general. 

As a side bonus, during non-conference hours I tried to squeeze in as many Philadelphia tourist activities as possible, including a run up "Rocky's" steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the early morning hours. 
I've got the Eye of the Tiger...
Now that mid-July is upon us, however, it's time to get focused again. I'll be at school more days than not over the next few weeks updating my plans for the year and getting things ready for textbook pick-up in mid-August. If you visit the blog during that time, you'll notice many pages and features are "under construction" as I make adjustments and updates for the 2014-15 school year.  

I'm looking forward to the planning and preparation, since it means I'll be seeing AP Psych students again soon.